Catch up #2- February 2012

Moving swiftly on to February, the month started with a planned trip to Slimbridge being postponed due to snow. Twice.

Undeterred, we continued to bird but kept things local including this snowy walk. Gosh, I love winter.

Somehow, through the blog our birdy obsession became contagious and my friend Sarah and I (go team Jo!) made a little trip over to Pulborough Brooks in Sussex where (I think) she caught the bug. I also got up close and personal with a Water Rail, but that’s a story that has already been covered…

We FINALLY made it, third time lucky, to WWT SLimbridge where we purchased some shiny new binoculars, I got very excited about grazing flocks of Wigeon (correct plural for a group of Wigeon anyone?), we absolutely froze in the Zeiss hide where every bird seemed to elude us (seriously, seriously quiet), but the day was made better by a good old fashioned Eider Duck. Happy days.

In case you don’t know, Eiders have THE best noise EVER. Seriously. If you don’t know, you can listen here if you can stand the musical soundtrack. Just don’t waste away too many hours imitating that amazing ooooohhhhhh. But if you do, a big high five and welcome to mine and Chris’s crazy world. Also whilst searching for good Eider noises the RSPB website has informed me that they are the UK’s heaviest duck and also ‘highly gregarious’. What a description.

February also saw us make a trip to the Hawk Conservancy for Chris to enjoy his birrthday pressie of an Owl Experience where he got to fly all sorts of owls. Whilst he was off having lots of Owl related fun, I spent my time around the park seeing the other residents, like the young Bald Eagle above. What a stare. He also looks like he has very angry yellow eyebrows, but that might just be me.

And, not forgetting that more common garden birds can be just as beautiful. Blackbirds are my ABSOLUTE favourite bird of all time. I could spend all day watching them. Just look at the Mrs B above, so much character and a lovely song to boot. I guess birds like this have been the common denominator throughout the year.

Hope you’re enjoying the catch up posts. I’m definitely enjoying recalling our year so far.

Jo x

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Catch up #1- January 2012

So, in true birdy style, we kicked the year off with a real birding fest. Keen to out bird one another, we really got off to a flying (*excuse the pun*) start to 2012. My highlights:

Keen to out bird Chris, I started a new habit of getting out and walking more after work. This is something I really must get back into, its surprisingly refreshing of an evening. I had stuck really well to one of my new year’s resolutions (to get outside more) for about the first half of the year, then other parts of my life (like a big office move followed by new job applications, interviews and preparation) took over. Now I’m more settled this is something I fully intend to get back into as I love being outside so much. It really makes me feel at peace with myself and means I really start to appreciate the world around me more. I am so lucky to live near so many beautiful places but I just don’t get out and see them as much as I should.

I discovered a new love for one place in particular- Farlington Marshes. The photograph above does not do the view justice, even on a windy and cold day it is one of my favourite places to be. I love being by the sea, and being here in winter, full of waders and wildfowl, is a real treat. Simple pleasures.

My bird obsession took to new heights- I took this photo whilst walking to the Southampton offices at my old job!

A very successful trip to Blashford resulted in this amazing Bittern sighting, right in front of the hide. A definite highlight of the year so far.

Chris started to take the big year seriously by investing in a true birder’s essential (although I still prefer my pretty Rob Ryan notebook any day) a waterproof notebook!

I successfully (and without Chris…oops) twitched the infamous Spanish Sparrow in Calshot, Hampshire. Now as much as I think your usual House Sparrow is a real beaut and definitely under-rated, this guy was a stunner.

That’s my January highlights in a nutshell. Check the archives on the blog if you’re after further info.

Jo x

No Sight

So, I have now completed my first solo bird walk. As I said yesterday, I was hoping for the junco. However, it would appear that the bird has flown. I turned up at the carpark (after getting a bit lost) and was greeted by the sight of one other car. Suggesting that everyone else knew the bird wasn’t there, unperturbed I pressed on.

The landscape was so different to the last junco attempt, it was a bleak, almost winters atmosphere and I couldn’t blame the junco for moving on, if I was a bird I’d have done the same. Here’s a picture of me at the ex junco site (I know I don’t look great but the sun chose that moment to come out and the quickly retreated)

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I decided to move on, there was nothing fluttering and I could hear lots of noise. I managed to see robins, chaffinches, wood pigeons, magpies and the crowning moment some goldcrest! One thing I did notice today was that if you see one type of bird you will see two, and every type I saw had its mate with them, this was pretty useful as at other times of the year you only see one or the other, the downside is that they are often quick moving or having sex, swings and roundabouts I suppose!

I had one other bird encounter on my way out of the car park, when I saw a male and female stonechat performing what I imagine was a courting dance, Mr Stonechat was looking pretty cool, but I couldn’t stay around to see them longer as I was stopping cars from getting into the car park (sorry new forest drivers)

One thing that made me genuinely happy on the walk came after I was cursing a bird for not landing, meaning I couldn’t identify it, I turned around and was greeted by this sight..

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There were 27 deer staring right at me, probably wondering who the hell I was talking to (I did it regularly today) they stayed around for the next 10 minutes and I just sat down and watched them. It really made me realise how much I have fallen in love with the outdoors and being in the middle of nowhere.

In birding terms it wasn’t a great showing, with no new year ticks and I’m no closer to Jo and her score, however it has rejuvenated my desire and should hopefully stand me in good stead going forward.

*i would also upload the video I took of the deer but my phone won’t communicate with the iPad so bear with me! I also couldn’t find my camera so made do with my phone one which is why the photos aren’t great quality.

Speak soon!

Chris

Once More into the breach

Well finally I can see light at the end of the tunnel at work and actually have some time to blog. This will only be a quick one though as its late.

Tomorrow will mark a massive step in my big year as I attempt to kick start my enthusiasm for it, something that has taken a bit of a knock with work stress and long hours. Jo is away this weekend and everyone who I would normally see is busy doing various exciting things, so the stars seem to be pointing me towards heading out for my very first solo birding adventure. The Collins is packed, boots are clean and I have the Junco in my sights (one Jo hasn’t seen)

Wish me luck readers!!

Chris

Finally..

Hello Dear Readers,

 

After what seems like a month since I last did a proper post (oops, it actually is!) I suppose that I best start with the number of birds that I managed to see in January as a few of you are now demanding to know. In total, between January 1st and January 31st I saw 76 unique species of bird. I won’t get too birdy on you all (mainly as I will get something wrong and be corrected by Jo!) but here are my favourite birds of January and a little bit of a reason why.

  1. Bittern – This is the top of my list purely because some people can go years without seeing one, and the first time I go into a hide at Blashford Lakes there is one staring up at me, not only that, but when everyone thought that it had disappeared I looked to my right and it was sat out in the open trying to swallow an entire fish. One man commented to me that I may as well go and “retire from birding” as views won’t come better than that. (I sometimes feel like he was right and maybe I have peaked too early in my birding career
  2. Kingfisher – This would have been an epic spot on any day, but the fact that it came at the end of a disappointing walk around Fishlake Meadows made it even better. I know that Jo was amazed by my reaction to seeing them (two in one, just like a bus) but it really was like seeing a bird from a different country. You can’t describe just how bright the colours are, I managed to see three that day in total, and one more since, and they are still brilliant every time you see one.
  3. Greenshank – For all you birders out there this won’t be a particularly special sighting, indeed for Jo I’m sure that it wasn’t great, but, what makes it special for me was that Jo and I really worked together to identify it using the Collins Book (my copy that Jo subsequently dropped in the mud) it must have taken us about 10 minutes to finally confirm it, but it left me really happy that we were able to use skills that before January I had never used.
  4. Bearded Tits – Not only a funny name (you all know it is!) they also look wicked, also seeing Jo so happy to see a bird that she has been looking for for years made it extra special. We have pictures of them and just how close we were eating our lunch to them made it amazing.

I didn’t think that I would have made it to such a number in one month, especially my first, but its mainly down to Jo helping me and dragging me out. I have a feeling that the subsequent months won’t be so spectacular, however there are over 10,000 left in the world for me to see so fingers crossed!

I went birding with my friend Greg at the start of February. He has new eyes (lasered) so in order to get his monies worth we thought it a good idea to see what he could see. It was a strange day; I am definitely not an expert, and I never managed to get to the bottom of what Greg thought of it, I probably endlessly annoyed him with my banging on about certain birds (my highlight was a goldcrest) and the hardest part was missing Jo. This may sound soppy, however it is purely because we have a very unique bird sense of humour, we personify them, its hard to explain, imagine Walk On The Wild Side, with just birds, if you are very unlucky some of you may get to experince this some day. However Greg was definitely not on the same wave length! (Sorry Greg)

I think that birding with different people will be something that I will need to get to used to over the course of 2012 (any volunteers living in Hampshire are eagerly encouraged!) but part of me just wants to make it a joint effort, hopefully when work quietens down I will get back into the competition, the new binocular purchases that we both made today should help,  I am just struggling with identifying the differences in certain types (especially waders) however I have finally nailed my tit identification  (stop sniggering at the back) so that is a step forward!

More about todays trip (to WWT Slimbridge) will follow when it isn’t so late.

 

Chris